Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Sounds of Latinidad

The Sounds of Latinidad: Immigrants Making Music and Creating Culture in a Southern City

Samuel K. Byrd
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Sounds of Latinidad
    Book Description:

    The Sounds of Latinidadexplores the Latino music scene as a lens through which to understand changing ideas aboutlatinidadin the New South. Focusing on Latino immigrant musicians and their fans in Charlotte, North Carolina, the volume shows how limited economic mobility, social marginalization, and restrictive immigration policies have stymied immigrants' access to the American dream and musicians' dreams of success. Instead, Latin music has become a way to form community, debate political questions, and claim cultural citizenship.

    The volume illuminates the complexity of Latina/o musicians' lives. They find themselves at the intersection of culture and politics, often pushed to define a vision of what it means to be Latino in a globalizing city in the Nuevo South. At the same time, they often avoid overt political statements and do not participate in immigrants' rights struggles, instead holding a cautious view of political engagement. Yet despite this politics of ambivalence, Latina/o musicians do assert intellectual agency and engage in a politics that is embedded in their musical community, debating aesthetics, forging collective solidarity with their audiences, and protesting poor working conditions.

    Challenging scholarship on popular music that focuses on famous artists or on one particular genre, this volume demonstrates how exploring the everyday lives of ordinary musicians can lead to a deeper understanding of musicians' role in society. It argues that the often overlooked population of Latina/o musicians should be central to our understanding of what it means to live in a southern U.S. city today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-7642-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Over the past two decades in the United States, immigration, particularly from Latin America, has transformed both traditional centers of immigrant influxes and “new immigrant destinations” on a scale not seen since the last “great wave” of immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Fry 2008; Suro and Singer 2002; Zúñiga and Hernández-León 2005). This book looks at one facet of this transformation: Latina/o immigrant musicians and their audiences in Charlotte, North Carolina, who, through their music making, engage in processes of community formation as they debate political questions relevant to their everyday lives as working musicians and...

  6. 1 Charlotte, a Globalizing City
    (pp. 17-40)

    This study is about musicians and their communities, but it is also about a city, Charlotte, North Carolina. Why Charlotte? Often during my time in Charlotte, people would ask me that question, wondering why I had come to study music in the “Queen City,” with the subtext of befuddlement that it could be worthy of serious contemplation. Perhaps Charlotte (or its residents) has an inferiority complex, although this question may stem from struggles to define what Charlotte really is. Is it a southern city, a “progressive” city, a rising center of finance, a city obsessed with out-competing other cities, a...

  7. 2 The Latin Music Scene in Charlotte
    (pp. 41-58)

    This chapter outlines the Latin music scene by reconstructing, through oral history and personal networks observed in study, the brief history of Latino musicians in Charlotte. I stress the diversity of the scene, especially since musicians and their genres span American, Mexican, Caribbean, and South American styles. This diversity differentiates Charlotte from traditional centers of Latino cultural production, such as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, where one Latin American nationality or origin group predominates (although these cities have also grown more diverse in recent years). Yet these diverse genres exist in a segregated social arena, where Latinos of different...

  8. 3 Bands Making Musical Communities
    (pp. 59-84)

    “Musical community” connotes a sense of belonging and shared affiliation around notions of class, ethnicity, language, style, and taste expressed through music and other creative cultural expressions. Musical community, as I define it, exists at the intersection of local and mass consumption, often serving as a point of mediation between locally produced, “grassroots” expressions of music and nationally and globally popular mass expressions of music. In addition to musicians’ interactions with each other, audience members and other listeners to the music engage in what the social theorist Paul Gilroy called “dialogic rituals” (1991), where they become active participants in music-...

  9. 4 “Thursday Is Bakalao’s Day!” Bands at Work and Play
    (pp. 85-106)

    “Working musician” is an oxymoron. In U.S. society, musicians occupy a special position because their work is strongly identified with leisure and fun. As performers and entertainers, they interact with an audience during the audience’s leisure time. But unlike waiters, bartenders, cooks, cleaning staff, or security guards, musicians look like they are having fun when they work. How much of this outward appearance is a genuine enjoyment of their music making and how much of it is performative affect, a mask that they wear to appeal to audiences? It is telling that the English word for what musicians do is...

  10. 5 The “Collective Circle”: Music and Ambivalent Politics in Charlotte
    (pp. 107-140)

    This chapter deepens an argument I have made elsewhere (Byrd 2014) about the ambivalent attitude of Latina/o musicians toward organized politics but also their sharp political vision in relation to their everyday lives as working musicians, members of a musical community, and residents of a globalizing city.² My research found that Latino immigrant musicians and their audiences negotiate their political stances through a physical and intellectual process that one Charlotte journalist called the “circular colectivo” (collective circle; Strimling 2010). As described earlier, the collective circle describes the circle of dancers that often form at Eastside rock concerts in Charlotte where...

  11. 6 Shifting Urban Genres
    (pp. 141-164)

    This chapter examines the political history of Latin genre categories, showing how genre emerges out of the contested spaces of nationalism and ethnic identity formation in Latin America and the United States, and relates these histories to current iterations of genre in Charlotte. Genre categories mark musical expressions and provide distinction between social groups. By providing a set of rules and common assumptions, genre boundaries help foster musical community through a sense of belonging, but also exclude others through difference (Bourdieu 1984; White 2008). Genres also become representational and referential, standing in for class, racial/ethnic, and national identity when music...

  12. 7 Race and the Expanding Borderlands Condition
    (pp. 165-188)

    Occasionally, while I was hanging out with musicians between sets at the bar, talk would turn to how they immigrated to the United States. One particularly memorable narrative of passage came from Francisco, a pianist/keyboard player from Honduras who is a member of a local rock band.¹ As a teenager, Francisco left home for the United States. He first had to travel through Mexico, which in itself was a perilous journey. He spent several days riding buses and praying not to be caught by Mexican police searching for Central American migrants. To cross into the United States, his family had...

  13. 8 The Festival: Marketing Latinidad
    (pp. 189-216)

    Latino cultural festivals in Charlotte play a vital role in showcasing music, dance, and art while also giving corporations and local businesses an enthusiastic audience to market their products and services. This chapter analyzes the significance of the Latino cultural festival in relation to the production of southernlatinidad, while also examining how festivals are essential to the process through which Charlotte’s Latina/o musicians forge global connections through interactions with visiting musicians and promoters. In the first section, I provide a behind-the-scenes look at how Latino festivals are organized and the relationship between organizers and corporate sponsors. The logistics of...

  14. 9 Musicians’ Ethics and Aesthetics
    (pp. 217-236)

    Whereas the previous chapter showed how the festival is a site of contestation over the meaning oflatinidad, this chapter demonstrates how the festival (and other prominent performances) facilitates communication between Latina/o musicians across genre boundaries and between musical communities. During and after their participation in these events, musicians engage in heated intellectual debates about the proper way to organize festivals and treat performers, constructing social rules that guide their sense of ethics and their judgments about the success of an event. These ethical sensibilities stem from musicians’ training, whether in a music school or informal setting, and their relationships...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 237-254)

    This book began by outlining the policies and political developments that have led to a climate of fear and hate and intensive policing aimed at immigrants in the United States, particularly in southern states such as North Carolina. It concludes by returning to this context and examining what is at stake in the struggle over immigration policy and how musicians and their audiences position themselves in this struggle. In the face of intensive policing that disrupts people’s lives and wrenches families apart, attempts to form community and stake a claim to belonging to the city become all the more important....

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 255-264)
    (pp. 265-280)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 281-286)
    (pp. 287-287)